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Collaborative Divorce – Is a “Paradigm Shift” for You?

Paradigm Shift may sound to you like a phrase a consultant would use – it reminds me a little of a meeting I was in many years ago, when the consultant in the room talked about different community agencies and institutions “interdigitating”. A paradigm shift, though, as part of a collaborative approach to your divorce or other family law case, might be something you’ll want to consider.

In a Collaborative Divorce, the parties may be in conflict and angry or hurt, but agree to attempt to reach a resolution that is fair to both sides, rather than one side trying to get as much as they can, at the expense of the other side. The parties recognize and understand that ongoing conflict between the parents can damage the children. Your spouse’s attorney will let you know that he or she understands your position and what you’re saying, versus coming after you during cross-examination, or writing nasty pleadings or letters about you.

The attorneys for the spouses will work together and help each other rather than battling each other. Often the attorneys, together, will explain the law to the parties during one of the collaborative law meetings. In case you’re not familiar with the process, a collaborative law case proceeds forward through a series of meeting, led by a facilitator (almost always a mental health professional). The facilitator leads and runs the meetings, not the attorneys – the attorneys are participants, with their role to fill, of explaining the law, helping to come up with options, solutions, and helping both parties come to a positive, successful resolution for the case. Your attorney will still advise and represent you, but the client and attorney agree, as part of the agreement for representation in the case, that this is the type of representation the client is seeking.

Even if you are in conflict with your spouse, it almost certainly will feel like a different process than litigation, because you won’t feel like there is an adversarial attorney going against you. It’s a different type of process for the attorneys as well. The attorneys almost always will be members of the same collaborative law group in the county where the case is proceeding, will be colleagues, probably friends, and will work together to help move the process to a positive resolution. The team members – the attorneys, mental health professional and financial professional if one is involved with the case, will meet before and after meetings to figure out the best way to move the process forward – they put their energy into this, versus figuring out how to defeat or damage the other side.

It can be a long process, with lots of meetings, and therefore expensive, but no more expensive than contested litigation, and probably much less expensive than litigation involving lots of discovery and a trial. The process of discovery, where clients exchange financial documents, can be time consuming and expensive. Each discovery response involves not only providing the documents, but also a special pleading the attorney needs to prepare and file as a “Response” to the discovery request; and a trial and the preparation for trial is very expensive.

By the time you arrive at a settlement as part of a collaborative case, you are probably satisfied with the settlement – there is much less of a chance for “signer’s remorse”, in my opinion. You will have explored and discussed options and alternative with your attorney and during the meetings, thought about the case, and then made a decision..

It’s not a process for everyone, and as I discuss in other posts and content, there are situations when it’s not advisable, but it is a process worth considering. You don’t have to actually “interdigitate” (hold hands) at the beginning of each collaborative meeting, but there is definitely more getting along with each other than in adversarial litigation.


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